World Bank Will Step Up Analytic Work in Support of Universal Health Coverage
May 25, 2013
Nellie Bristol, Research Fellow
Global Health Policy Center, Center for Strategic and International Studies
The World Bank Group will increase its analytic work and health systems’ support as one of five measures it will take to encourage universal health coverage globally, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said this week in Geneva.
“Universal coverage is a systems challenge, and support for systems is where the World Bank Group can do the most to help countries improve the health of your people,” he told the World Health Assembly (WHA) May 21.
Kim connected universal health coverage with Bank poverty alleviation efforts. The Bank announced last month its commitment to work with countries to end extreme poverty by 2030. To reach that goal, he told the WHA, “countries must ensure that all of their citizens have access to quality, affordable health services.”
Universal health coverage aims to provide broad equitable access to health services while minimizing financial risk associated with obtaining care. UHC is a top goal of the World Health Organization (WHO). The Bank has completed 22 studies of country coverage expansion programs. It is now developing a comparative review of those and health insurance programs in the Massachusetts.
Kim prioritized two actions to improve coverage and equity: ensuring health care costs don’t force people into poverty and improving access to services for the poorest 40 percent of the population in every country. He said estimates show that 100 million people are impoverished every year as a result of health care expenses.
In addition to increasing analytic work on UHC, Kim said the Bank also would support countries in all out push to reach the Millennium Development Goals related to child and maternal health; step up efforts to improve health through action in other sectors including agriculture, clean energy, education, sanitation, and women’s empowerment, and; continue its work on health delivery science to find the most effective and efficient ways to provide health care.
In addition, the Bank and the WHO are collaborating on a monitoring framework for universal coverage that will be presented to countries for consultation at the UN General Assembly in September.
While the path to universal coverage will be different for all countries, Kim said, “in all cases, countries need to tie their plans to tough, relevant metrics.” The work of the Bank and other organizations will be critical to the effort. “International partners must be ready to support you. All of us together must prevent ‘universal coverage’ from ending up as a toothless slogan that doesn’t challenge us, force us to change, force us to get better every day,” he said.
To learn more about the activities of the World Bank and Dr. Kim, please see this recent blog, “Dr. Kim's Prescription for Global Health,” by my CSIS colleague, Todd Summers.